There are all kinds of stories related to the name of this dish. If you know a little bit of Italian (or other Romantic language), you can probably figure out why. Puttana translates into prostitute and it’s been theorized that this is a dish women “of the night” would use to lure men.
Because most everything in this dish can be kept in the pantry, I like to think of it as a quick dish when you have little fresh food on hand. And, well, that can go along with the story line, too. It’s something that can be whipped up and eaten in bed when you’re too tired to make a whole meal.
Last week I shared my pizza dough recipe with the idea that I was going to follow up immediately with some great calzone recipes. Little did I know I would experience a supreme Julia Child Moment as well.
Things don’t always go as planned, do they? Alas! Here is my failed Spinach Ricotta Calzone, which practically flew out of my hands and plopped on the open oven door:
Here it is! In all its hideousness.
You might be wondering why I would post such a dramatic failure on my blog.
I felt compelled to let you know that sometimes you just fail. Sometimes–no matter how hard you try or how badly you want it–you fail.
The Internet has become–in large part–a place of perpetual perfection, hasn’t it? Nothing to see but Instagram-worthy pictures of perfect lives filled with sunshine, butterflies and flowers! On the Internet, no one fails. No one makes a mistake. Everything is perfect. Always.
So instead of introducing you to the history of calzone or maybe even the backstory of my Ricotta Calzone recipe, I wanted to show you my glorious failure! My Julia Child Moment!
Let me start by explaining what a Julia Child Moment is first.
You might recall, from my recent post on French Onion Soup (Julia Child’s French Onion Soup Gratinee I am a huge Julia Child fan. I cut my cooking teeth on her Boston-based PBS program “The French Chef” and I own all of her cookbooks.
I always admired the way Julia was able to simply explain the finer points of French haute cuisine without making you feel like you were simple. Julia knew good food was for everyone and she shared that message wherever she went, even if things didn’t go as planned.
One of the most amazing things about Julia was her ability to “roll with the punches” and make a failure into a triumph.
How could I forget when she first tried to flip an oversized potato pancake…only to chock her failure up to not having the “courage of conviction”?
Or when she tried to teach Dave Letterman to make a gourmet hamburger on Late Night, but ended up getting him to eat raw ground beef and calling it Steak Tartare?
Nothing phased Julia Child and no failure was ever a true failure with her. Julia believed failing was a learning opportunity and a way to adjust your perspective.
In watching The French Chef all those years, I developed many life skills. But the most important lesson I learned was that no one is perfect.
No one is perfect, BUT we must always do the best we can with what we have. Despite our imperfection, we should always “press on” in an effort to always be trying to improve our skills.
And that’s not just a cooking lesson to learn.
And that, my faithful reader, is a Julia Child Moment!
Each batch of dough will make two medium sized calzones. Keep your dough covered while you prepare the filling.
Ingredients for Ricotta Cheese Calzone:
1 batch Pizza Dough
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup or so shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup or so shredded romano or parmesan or a mixture of both
garlic salt and black pepper
cornmeal for sprinkling
olive oil or egg wash for brushing the outside of the crust
Ingredients for Spinach & Ricotta Calzone:
1 package frozen chopped spinach defrosted and dried in a towel to remove liquid
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup total shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
salt and pepper
cornmeal for sprinkling
olive oil or egg wash for brushing the outside of the crust
Directions for Making Calzone:
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. If you are using a pizza stone, put it in before preheating the oven.
Separate the dough into two equal balls. Cover the one you aren’t working with.
Flatten your dough ball on a lightly floured surface being careful to form a flat circle shape
Roll the dough out from all directions to maintain the circular shape until it is about the size of a medium pizza. Try not to roll the dough so thin that it could create holes in the dough. If you accidentally make a hole, carefully pinch the dough back together, making sure it is closed up. Holes are bad.
Since the dough is pretty elastic and will be heavy when filled, it may help you to transfer the dough to a pizza peel lined with a piece of cornmeal-sprinkled parchment paper.
Spoon the filling on the right half of the dough circle and spread it out. Keep a good inch of dough around the edge, but spread the filling out within the entire right half of the circle.
Carefully lift up the empty half of the dough and drape it gently over the filled side, lining up the edges of the dough to make the classic half-moon shape of a calzone.
Using water if necessary, pinch and crimp the edges where the dough overlaps. Be certain that you’ve properly closed your seam…remember holes are bad.
Lightly brush the calzone with oil or egg wash (I used olive oil).
Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove with the pizza peel and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing, because contents will be extremely hot, extremely gooey and exceptionally delicious!
I do hope you try making your own calzone at home! If this is your first time making a rolled dough remember your Julia Moment and press on! Courage!
Even though I haven’t visited The City by the Bay in years, I have never lost affection for all that San Francisco has to offer. I don’t just want to visit again…I yearn to be there…and, yes, it’s that wonderful a place!
But here I am all the way over on the East Coast and every once in a while I just need something that is quintessentially San Franciscan. What’s a girl to do?
I solved my dilemma–once again–by getting out my Dutch Oven and setting to work on an absolutely soul satisfying fish stew–that is known as Cioppino.
For the record, you pronounce Cioppino “Chip (soft p) Pee No” and it is a well known San Francisco treat. The great thing about Cioppino is it influenced by whatever the fresh catch is. For example, in San Francisco, which is on the Pacific, you’d probably always expect a nice amount of Dungeness in your bowl of Cioppino. But–over here on the East Coast where crab is not as prevalent–we could use shrimp or even Maine lobster tails! That’s the true beauty of Cioppino! It’s left up to you–dear cook–to find the best ingredients for your stew, so do keep that in mind when you are purchasing your fish for this dish.
There is one other important point I’d like to make about Cioppino or any other soup or stew, for that matter. Most good soup makers know that almost all homemade soups, chowders, and stews benefit from a little aging. With a day or two of resting, you allow all of the flavors to meld together, which gives the completed soup amazing depth. With that in mind, I have broken the recipe up into two sections. If you have the time, make the broth a day or two ahead. When you are ready to make the full stew, reheat the broth and add the solid ingredients.
Don’t have time to wait? That’s okay, too. Even if prepared all on the same day, this recipe is still a winner!
Let’s get to it, shall we?
Ingredients for the Broth:
olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine
2 bottles (8 ounces each) clam juice (located near the tuna fish and other canned fish)
28 ounce can small diced or crushed tomatoes (I prefer the diced)
8 cups of water
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper, to your preference
How to prepare the broth:
Begin by heating your Dutch Oven over medium high heat for a minute. Add the olive oil and warm a minute more.
Add the onion and cook until softened. Once onion is softened, add the garlic, oregano, basil and pepper flakes and allow to simmer over low heat for a few minutes, until fragrant.
Add the wine and bring to a boil, cooking until the wine is reduced by half.
Add the tomatoes. Stir well and cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.
When thickened, add the clam juice, bay leaves and the water. Season to taste.
Bring broth to a boil then return to simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaves.
For best results, make your broth a day or two ahead of preparing the entire dish and allow it to chill. You can, of course, use the broth immediately if you must.
Ingredients for Completed Stew:
Broth, prepared ahead of time and allowed to age for up to two days
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 pounds of shellfish such as mussels, clams or cherrystones, de-bearded, rinsed and drained (I used fresh PEI mussels and some good looking cherrystones)
1 pound of large shrimp, peeled (except for the tail) and deveined OR 1 pound fresh crab–or some combination of both to equal about a pound
1 pound firm white ocean fish, cut into generous pieces (I used cod)
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh sourdough bread
Completing the stew:
Have your broth ready. If you have let it rest, heat it to a low simmer…gently.
In a large (7 quart) Dutch Oven or pot, heat your olive oil and then add the shallot. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until shallot is softened. Add the sliced garlic and cook for another minute or so–until fragrant–but do not let the garlic burn. Hint: Use your big pot…you will need it at the end, trust me!
To the pan add your mussels, clams or cherrystones and the wine. Cover and cook until the shells open, which will take 4-5 minutes.
Check your shellfish to make sure they have all opened. Discard any that do not.
Add the prepared broth to the shellfish and bring to a simmer.
When at a simmer, add the fish chunks and shrimp. Cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the butter cubes and check your seasonings, adjusting as necessary.
Serve “family style” with fresh or toasted sourdough bread, which is used for dipping
Although this dish can be a little expensive to make and requires some patience, it is totally worth it!
In fact…if I were a mermaid, I’d insist on it every night!
I’m back with my Dutch Oven and a new recipe for what I call “Lazy Lasagna”–but it could also be a pasta bake, if you’d like. I call it Lazy Lasagna, because it has all the ingredients of my regular lasagna without all the time consuming layering.
To make this dish, I started with cooking two boxes (two pounds) of Barilla’s Mezzi Rigatoni, which is a short but wide tube of pasta. I cook the rigatoni for 10 minutes only, because I want to keep my pasta firm. Regular rigatoni or even ziti would work just as well, so feel free to use what you have.
When the pasta has cooked, drain off the water in a colander and return the cooked pasta to the original pot. It’s helpful if you do not overly drain your pasta for this one, because a little of the pasta water will help when mixing your ingredients into the pasta.
To the drained pasta, add a full container of ricotta, a jar of pre-made sauce OR your own homemade sauce, a generous portion of shredded mozzarella cheese and seasoning. I like to add salt, pepper, a touch of crushed pepper, and a blend of dried basil, oregano and rosemary, but obviously adjust to your preference. Mix until blended well.
Add some sauce to the bottom of your Dutch Oven then add your pasta mixture. Two pounds of pasta with all the other mix-ins will fill a 5.5 quart Dutch Oven almost to the top. If you have a smaller pan, adjust accordingly.
Top the pasta mixture with the remaining sauce and then sprinkle the top with shredded mozzarella and then a healthy portion of shredded, dry cheese (I use Stella Three Cheese Italian, which is a mixture of Parmesan, Asiago and Romano cheeses).
Cover and bake in your preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Then remove the cover and bake for another 10-15 minutes to brown the cheese on top.
Two boxes of Mezzi Rigatoni or similar tube shaped pasta
Two jars of prepared pasta sauce or equivalent of homemade sauce
One 32 ounce container of ricotta cheese
Two cups (or so) shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
Seasonings such as salt, pepper, crushed pepper, basil, oregano and rosemary